Since the beginning of 2017, the Smoke Hole Canyon page has posted about environmental and political issues affecting West Virginia and outdoor recreation across the U.S.; the Appalachian Pipeline Project, the attempted sale of our Public Lands, the overturn of the Stream Protection Rule, the attempted reversal of Bears Ears Monument status and the subsequent withdrawal of Patagonia from the annual Outdoor Retail event. Across the hill, the Seneca Rocks page remained silent on all these issues, but came back strong with an endorsement of climbing... in Cuba.
The Seneca Rocks Chapter 'supports' trail work, but without actual participation.
Here are some of the inconsistencies:
Cindy has survived and recovered from a stroke that all but paralyzed one side of her body, she has battled Multiple Sclerosis for the last fifteen years, and still struggles against the degenerative disc disease that required the complete rebuild of her lower spine. Last year, Cindy survived a cerebral aneurysm that horrified the best neurosurgeon in the United States, requiring a 4 hour operation that was "the most complex procedure (he) had ever completed or witnessed".
Perhaps her lack of visible disability isn't dramatic enough for a fundraiser or membership drive photo.
Adam said that we were not eligible for consideration due to a list of qualifications, conditions for a new chapter that were obviously not applied to Seneca Rocks.
Despite all this email evidence, Adam and his handlers now insist that it is my history, of pointing out the double standards and hypocrisies of the advocates, which took us out of the running. I find that a bit incredible given that it took six days for him to change his mind from "We're a big GO on the Smoke Hole Chapter!" to "We're not fulfilling a promise made by two administrators of the American Alpine Club."
Yes, I have criticized the priorities and lackluster activism of the advocates in the past, and given their present course and policies, I will no doubt do so again.
When the AAC highlights Duane Raleigh fawning over gym climbers while blaming those of us climbing outdoors for their deaths in a TNB article, I will call the advocates and the publisher on the fact that his magazine sells an awful lot of ad space to gyms.
When, in the next tremendous waste of paper and time that is Rock and Ice, Duane tells the 2,000 people who begin climbing in gyms every month that "every climber should put up a new route before they die", I will ask where exactly he thinks all those routes would go, and propose that he might like to start by showing them some of his favorite secret places. I will also point out just how many people who sell bolting equipment also use his ad space.
When Duane goes on to say that those newbies should also replace an anchor, without any mention of experience or education, I wonder just what kind of Swiss cheese cluster foxtrot Duane would like to find atop classic lines at his own favorite crag.
This is called criticism, not slander, although the AAC and the AF would love for you to forget that there is actually a difference.
Questioning the advocates is not heresy.
And there is plenty to question;
"But wait a minute, Mike... those folks represent us; they're our advocates, and they care deeply about us... Don't they?"
Not so much.
Neil Arsenault has been a member of the AAC for 40 years; when he asked to be included in the meeting to add some perspective, he was told, flatly, "Not this time, Neil."
Another friend and dues-paying member wrote to the AAC about this issue, and he received not a single reply; a highly respected legal professional who grew up in Colorado and got his membership decades ago, the kind of member who buys a lifetime membership and then gives one to his kids, ignored when he asked hard questions.
While you might have been given a questionnaire about what you think the focus of the AAC should be, we learned in the Seneca Summit that
1) outside of the obligatory membership drives and fundraisers, the chapter and section chairs of the AAC have little or no clue how to accomplish the goals they set and
2) actual policy is set by feedback from climbing manufacturers, not members.
(That is a direct quote, BTW.)
That means if the manufacturers want the AAC to oppose trade sanctions with the world's leading polluter and human rights violator, China, based on the fact that most of the outdoor industry sells products manufactured in that country, the AAC falls right in line.
It means that when Barack Obama signed off on the biggest giveaway of Public Lands in U.S. history, the advocates let that issue idle on the back burner.
"Why?", you ask.
Look at your guide to membership, and think about just how many of the "valued partners" make the majority of their goods in or buy them from China.
Black Diamond just brought cam manufacturing home, but for most of the fight to save Oak Flat, their Camalots came from China. And valued AF partner Jeep uses quite a bit of copper; want to guess where it comes from?
So what? So, the principle shareholder in the companies that benefitted from the land swap is China. The most likely place for the copper to be refined and marketed is China.
That translates into just enough action on the issues that the advocates can claim to be involved, but never involved enough to really push these issues to the forefront of the climbing community's consciousness.
Right now, the AAC is focusing on the Bear's Ears Monument designation. What they don't want to talk about is how Obama could have used this to reverse the Oak Flat decision, or the fact that Obama trimmed off the NE corner of the new monument to allow a uranium mine to continue drawing water.
The advocates don't want bad news; my invitation to the summit was made on the non-negotiable condition that I not bring up a single issue that deeply affects the region.
Once I saw all the shiny new climbers they had transformed into chapter chairs, I understood; no one must be allowed to pollute the propaganda stream with questions and critical thinking.
It is for this same reason that administrators are not elected by the membership, nor are positions created at their behest.
No, instead, positions deemed necessary by the very elite upper echelon of the AAC are filled by the chosen of that elite; candidates selected from among a small cadre of business owners and guides who can best benefit the corporate image of the AAC, instead of choosing leaders who are most capable of serving the needs of the members, based on their input.